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Clooney, De Palma land on the Lido

Venice film festival bringing out the stars

VENICE — George Clooney disembarked on the Lido Friday, armed with his customary charm offensive to tub-thump legal thriller “Michael Clayton.”

Nefarious influence of Big Business was recurring theme at confabs for both “Clayton” and Brian De Palma Iraq war film “Redacted.”

Sporting a three-day stubble, Clooney breezed into the presser as dozens of hands shot up for questions.

But when an Italo reporter asked him if there wasn’t a contradiction between his being in — and backing — a movie widely perceived as an attack on corporate America, while at the same appearing in commercials for “corporate” products, star let off a rare display of tetchiness. “I don’t have a problem with trying to make a living,” replied Clooney, before tersely adding, “You know what? That’s an irritating question, so…answer that yourself.”

Rest of the confab was largely taken up by ruminations on corrupting influence of big money and power. “Clayton” marks debut helming effort from scribe Tony Gilroy (“The Bourne Ultimatum”) and tells the story of a hot-shot lawyer (Clooney) forced to face up to a lifetime of compromised decisions. “All these corporations you are referring to as a machine, they are all inhabited by people,” said Gilroy. “These people go home, they love their kids, but every day they go back and make small paper cuts on their morality.”

“It’s about the chain of command,” added co-star Tilda Swinton. “I’m a soldier’s daughter and all my life has been a quest to explore what it takes for people to do inhuman things.”

Pic will be released day-and-date by Warner Bros in the U.S. and Medusa in Italy Oct. 5.

The question of inhuman decisions and legal compromises was also front and center at confab for helmer De Palma’s “Redacted,” a digitally-shot dramatization of an American platoon in Iraq that culminates with the brutal rape and murder of a 15-year-old Iraqi girl and her family. “The lawyers kept coming at us with disclaimers all the time. We would get a new version of the disclaimer every week,” said De Palma, who drew much of the film’s plot from research he conducted on the Internet.

Harrowing pic, which lensed in Jordan, also features a beheading, images of Iraqi civilians mowed down by American machine guns and an American soldier’s body blown to shreds by an I.E.D. The film’s final scene features a montage of censored pictures of dead and wounded Iraqis from the conflict. “The movie attempts to bring the reality of what happened in Iraq to the American people,” said De Palma. “Unlike Vietnam, where we could see the images of destructions and Americans brought home in body bags, we haven’t seen these images from the Iraq war. These pictures exist but there’s no interest in them in the mainstream media, which is mainly owned by the corporate establishment. If we get these pictures in front of a mass audience, then maybe we can affect things.”

Though originally made for HDNet Films, “Redacted” has now been picked up for a theatrical release by U.S. distrib Magnolia Pictures. De Palma is hoping word of mouth will help boost U.S interest as pic is rolled out across the country in a limited release.

While Clooney’s appearance added the fest’s biggest dose of star power so far, fest organizers confirmed that Scarlett Johannson would not be attending. Johannson had been due at the Lido to promote “The Nanny Diaries” and “Cassandra’s Dream,” her latest collaboration with multi-hyphenate Woody Allen.

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